Jonah Goldberg: The ‘Last Straw’?

This is the moment when Trumpism hits the fan.

Of course, it has felt like this to one extent or another before:

  1. when Trump denigrated John McCain’s military service,
  2. when he compared Ben Carson to a pedophile,
  3. when he smeared Ted Cruz’s father,
  4. when the Access Hollywood tape came out, after the various idiotic tweets,
  5. after he fired Comey
  6. when he divulged intelligence sources and methods, etc.

.. Lingering on for three-plus more years as a failed president is a kind of survival. The question is, is this presidency salvageable?

.. A piece of straw alone is not a burden for a camel. But if you pile on one burden after another, you reach “the last straw.” This is one of the — if not the — most important dynamics in politics. If you go back and look at any number of “spontaneous” political outbursts, you’ll discover that the actual people doing the, uh, out-bursting are actually responding to a long list of grievances and that the precipitating event was only the last straw.

.. For instance, the Arab Spring was ignited by the abuse of a street vendor in Tunisia, but the kindling for the region-wide political conflagration to come had accumulated over decades.

.. I have always believed that the Trump presidency would end badly because I believe character is destiny. There is no reasonable or morally sound definition of good character that Donald Trump can meet. That’s why we learned nothing new about Donald Trump this week. He can’t change. Some good, decent, and smart people couldn’t or wouldn’t see this. But every day, more people see this.

Julius Krein, the founder of the pro-Trump egghead journal American Affairs, reached his tipping point this week:

Critics of the pro-Trump blog and then the nonprofit journal that I founded accused us of attempting to “understand Trump better than he understands himself.” I hoped that was the case. I saw the decline in this country — its weak economy and frayed social fabric — and I thought Mr. Trump’s willingness to move past partisan stalemates could begin a process of renewal. It is now clear that my optimism was unfounded. I can’t stand by this disgraceful administration any longer, and I would urge anyone who once supported him as I did to stop defending the 45th president.

.. Some of the smartest people I know voted for him, for defensible reasons. Krein and his fellow Trumpist intellectuals weren’t dumb, they were just wrong. And while I think the conservative movement would probably be in better shape if Hillary Clinton had won last November, I don’t think it’s nearly so obvious that America would be.

.. Is there a means by which the White House could entice all of the CEOs quitting these stupid councils and commissions to come back?

.. You might call it “Manichean Hegelianism.” In this binary formulation, the world is divided between the forces of Light and Darkness, Good and Evil — and evil cannot fight evil and good cannot fight good.

.. Let’s stipulate that Adolf Hitler was the most evil person ever. On the scale of evil, he scores 100 percent. Fine. What score should we ascribe to Stalin or Mao? Let’s say they score 90 percent.

Who gives a rat’s ass? Certainly not the millions they murdered. If you watched your wife get raped by prison guards in the Gulag and then die in the snow, how much solace would you take from the fact that Hitler was “worse” on some asinine abstract metric of evil? If you want to argue that no one was worse than Hitler, have at it. But if you’re going to then argue that because someone wasn’t as bad as Hitler — or because someone fought Hitler — that they are somehow absolved of their own evil deeds, then you’re a fool. To do so is to render complex moral and historical questions into a pass/fail system. Suddenly, “not as bad as Hitler” becomes a passing grade.

.. If you think racism is the most evil thing ever, you’re going to say the KKK is worse than antifa. That’s fine by me. But who cares? Is there a fainter praise imaginable than “He’s better than a Klansman?”

.. The simple truth is that history isn’t simple: The universe isn’t divided into the Forces of Goodness and the Forces of Evil. That divide runs through every human heart and, therefore, every human institution. Recognizing this fact is the first step toward humility and decency in politics and life. But we live in a tribal moment where people ascribe good and evil to vast swaths of humanity based upon the jerseys they wear. Sometimes, the jerseys do make the case. Wear a Klan hood or a swastika and I will judge the book by the cover. But just because you think you’re morally justified to punch a Nazi, don’t expect me to assume you’re one of the good guys.